We’ve heard and even contributed to the clean beauty spiel.
“No nasties”, “non-toxic“, and “chemical-free” are a handful of buzzwords synonymous with this sector of the beauty industry. Although this movement continues to grow, it is, on the flip side, inviting increasing skepticism on whether chemicals deserved to be demonised and if these formulas prove effective for long-term results.
Enter Tata Harper. The Colombian entrepreneur and her eponymous prestige clean beauty brand has a well-earned cult following. Its 100 per cent natural ingredients are farm-fresh, and personally selected by Harper. Its formulas are restorative, regenerating and highly effective. Just ask her many fans (one of them is Goop’s head honcho herself, Gwyneth Paltrow).
Ahead, Harper shares about her entrepreneurial journey, her biggest beauty mistake and the one skincare product she would not be caught using.
Tell us the story behind your brand.
My stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and through helping him change his lifestyle, I started to examine everything I was putting in and on my body. For the longest time, natural beauty was thought to be simple and low quality. A lot of the textures and experiences weren’t designed for a serious skincare client like me. Typically, you would find natural beauty in food stores and apothecaries where you don’t find high quality products with the technology you expect. At the same time, when I went to department stores, they had a few natural ingredients that are mixed with synthetics and chemicals. I wanted to fuse both worlds and create products that were 100 per cent natural but made with high quality, potent ingredients. There wasn’t an option for people like me that were looking for that. Since I couldn’t find any natural skincare products that gave me the results and the luxury experience I was looking for, I decided to create my own.
How has growing up in a house of women impacted you and your brand?
I grew up in a beauty-centric household surrounded by women who loved their self-care. Much of my inspiration and vision for our business stems from how I grew up and the experiences I had in Colombia. I have always been motivated by the women around me and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we have without building our team of strong women.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
We’re a relatively young business. In fact this year is our tenth anniversary, and we’ve faced challenges at every stage. When we first started, formulating high-tech, ingredient-packed products with exclusively natural ingredients was a challenge. Then, once we launched our first products, the challenge we faced was overcoming this old misconception that naturals weren’t effective. Now, as we continue to grow and are more focused on international expansion, we’re facing new challenges that come with scaling a vertically integrated business.
How did you deal with naysayers?
I stayed determined and kept my eyes open and looking forward. The more research I did and knowledge I acquired, the more my resolve grew. I have this same mindset today, I don’t want to compromise on quality or experience. Ever.
Tell us about your favourite product.
This is always a hard question because I love every product we make, but if I had to pick it would be Elixir Vitae, Regenerating Cleanser, and the Resurfacing Mask.
Elixir Vitae is seriously the product I can’t live without and it’s our most potent and powerful formula. It has 72 ingredients and works like a daily dose of injectables. It has a Quadruple Neuropeptide Complex that uses relaxing technology to minimise the look of wrinkles, Kelp Polymers that address signs of cellular aging, and Pistachio Tree Crystal Tears that use filling technology to restore the look of volume.
If I want to instantly grow and restore radiance to the skin, my favourite products are in our Glow Getter routine. The first step is the Regenerating Cleanser, which is a daily BHA exfoliant that polishes your skin with a deep clean. You want to apply enough so that the product creates a thin, white foam on your face by rubbing all over the skin in circular motions. Instead of washing the cleanser off, I then apply our Resurfacing Mask directly on top of the cleanser and let the products work their magic for five minutes before removing. I love it because the combo gives me results like a peel, but without the downtime.
What about your favourite ingredient?
We source only the highest quality ingredients and the most innovative natural technology available, and include as many as we can in every formula to make our products as effective as possible. Every single ingredient we use comes from nature from our farm in Vermont and all over the world. Our core ingredients are calendula, alfalfa, borage, arnica, and meadowsweet which are native to our part of the world. The herbs are hand-picked, then completely dried. Then, we do a process called ‘garbling,’ where the ingredients are rubbed by hand on a screen to break them down. Finally, we combine them with a carrier oil and gently heat them to extract all the oils and key nutrients. Next, they are strained and become our Farm Grown Beauty Complex before they are bottled up and shipped off straight from the farm.
Recently, I have been obsessed with neuropeptides which are powerful anti-aging ingredients. They are so effective that they are sometimes referred to as natural alternatives to injectables. We source our quadruple neuropeptide formula from Israel, France, Madagascar, and Asia to deliver the ultimate smoothing effect in our most potent Supernaturals collection.
How does Tata Harper stay ahead of its competitors?
What differentiates us from traditional beauty brands or those who define themselves as “green” is really the quality of our products and our commitment to transparency.
I started the brand after my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer and I started learning about the toxic load and how many toxic ingredients are in my personal care products. I was shocked to find that many brands use a fully synthetic or pre-made base that make up 75 per cent of the formula. Most of the time, the bases don’t do anything for the skin and are made primarily with preservatives and artificial ingredients that might make them look and smell nice, but that’s it.
We do things differently. We start with a problem to solve and approach that problem with multiple ingredients at high concentrations to give you real results. A lot of brands focus on one or two “hero” ingredients, but we source only the highest quality ingredients and the most innovative natural technology available, and include as many as we can in every formula to make our products as effective as possible. I work with our in-house team on every step of the process, from conceptualisation to formulation to packaging, to create all of our products. We are completely vertically integrated, so we formulate, batch, fill, and ship all of our products from our farm in Vermont. The ingredients that we don’t grow on our farm are sourced sustainably and ethically from the rest of the world.
Describe your sustainable practices.
We create products that enrich, not deplete, our environment and resources. We consider everything from using local ingredients and talent, to packaging, to manufacturing processes, and our respecting living creatures.
We only use green technology and natural and nontoxic ingredients, so you won’t find a single drop of synthetic chemicals, artificial dyes and fragrances, or other toxic or polluting ingredients in our products. We don’t create toxic byproducts that pollute water or end up in landfills and we make everything ourselves on our farm in Vermont, so there’s no outsourcing or unnecessary shipping between multiple facilities across the country or world. Our products are made-to-order in small batches, so there is no over producing or excess inventory that ends up in a landfill.
For our packaging, almost all of our products come in glass, which is infinitely recyclable. The small number of products that come in tubes are made with 100 per cent recyclable bio-based sugarcane plastic. Our cartons are made with certified paper from sustainably managed forests and we use biodegradable soy ink to reduce the toxicity of our cartons.
What is one beauty rule you swear by?
Always double cleanse. cleansing is critical for skin health but just the one cleanse won’t cut it, especially in the evening. Using only one cleanser at night is like having a shower with all your clothes on – throughout the day, toxins and pollutions are absorbed into your skin and if not treated properly, will accelerate the signs of ageing. When double cleansing, start with an oil-based formula before moving on to a foaming or gel cleanser.
What’s new that we should try?
We have recently launched our first refillable product, the Water-Lock moisturiser which is our first step to becoming reusable beauty instead of throwaway beauty. The reality is that beauty packaging can definitely be used longer. The pump, caps, and jars can always be reused multiple times – it’s not like the components will disintegrate after a month or two of using it! The formula is specifically designed to focus on hydrating the last, most dehydrated layer of your skin to get your skin super smooth and glowy.
Complete these sentences…
The biggest beauty mistake I’ve ever done… is bleaching my hair then dyeing it bright red. It was the most horrible mistake I ever made. I looked horrendous, and I couldn’t get it fixed for over a month since it was so damaged.
I first fell in love with clean beauty… when we formulated the Resurfacing Mask, which is the first product we ever made and still one of our best-sellers to date.
I can’t live without… my Elixir Vitae serum! It’s our most potent and powerful formula with 72 ingredients that work like a daily dose of injectables.
I’m guilty of… treating myself to Colombian dark chocolate not once, but twice a day!
The skincare trend I dislike… is witch hazel toners – they can be super harsh and damaging to the skin barrier.
I dream of…traveling back to Paris and having my favorite breakfast at Cafe Antonia in The Bristol Hotel.
Aging is beautiful… and we should learn to embrace it and appreciate it as a society, but there are always preventative measures you can take to slow the aging process.